Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount said workers who know how to manually operate the Colonial Pipeline and other infrastructure have mostly retired or died when pressed on whether the company would be able to handle a future cyber attack.
“Do you have the capability to manually operate the pipeline in the event of an IT attack like this one?” Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley asked during a Tuesday hearing. “And if you don’t have that capability, should you?”
Blount said while the company is able to alleviate some of the fuel shortage manually, most workers skilled to run the pipeline manually aren’t in the workforce anymore.
“Senator, that’s a great question, we actually did operate small portions of the pipeline manually in order to alleviate some of the fuel shortage,” Blount said. “And the discussion took place … about the ability to do that, systemwide, and the response to that was: it would be quicker to get back up on our feet by correcting the corruption of the critical IT systems that we needed in order to get the pipeline system up than operate it manually.”
Colonial Pipeline CEO Joseph Blount says workers who historically operated pipelines and other infrastructure manually have retired. pic.twitter.com/M2izZWFDCP
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“But I think on a go-forward basis, there’s no question that we will look at that capability, and it’s a really interesting question because if you look at the aging workforce now, a lot of those people that did operate Colonial Pipeline and other infrastructure in America historically manually. They’re retiring or they’re gone,” he continued.
Colonial Pipeline did revert to manual operations during the shutdown.
“We can now report that Line 4, which runs from Greensboro, N.C., to Woodbine, Md., is operating under manual control for a limited period of time while existing investors is available,” the company announced May 10.
Colonial Pipeline has issued new statement: “We can now report that Line 4, which runs from Greensboro, N.C., to Woodbine, Md., is operating under manual control for a limited period of time while existing inventory is available.” https://t.co/wFko0SHoJ5
— Kim Zetter (@KimZetter) May 11, 2021
Colonial Pipeline was hit by a cyber attack in May, forcing them to shut down their entire network. The shutdown contributed to a spike in gas prices and fuel shortages across numerous states. (RELATED: Colonial Pipeline CEO Reveals Why He Paid Millions To Eastern European Hackers)
Blount defended his decision to shut down the pipeline and pay hackers ransom in cryptocurrency, worth millions of dollars, according to CNN.
“Shutting down the pipeline was absolutely the right decision, and I stand by our employees’ decision to do what they were trained to do,” Blount said.